I know it has been awhile since you heard from me, Buffalo Bills fans; I took a brief break since my last post. During my sabbatical, I was afforded time to really sink my teeth into everything involving the team. I read countless training camp articles and player analyses, to the point where it literally burned me out. I felt overwhelmed with the influx of information that I was consuming, as well as the amount of coverage that the team was receiving. Worst of all, I found that I was having a hard time forming my own opinion, as my opinions were the opinions of someone else.
Think about that last statement for a moment. If a stranger were to ask you your opinion on the performance of EJ Manuel thus far during training camp, what would your answer be?
I was asked this very question on the plane, on my way to the Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony two weekends ago in Canton, Ohio. My answer was like the answer that many of you would have given, which is that he's struggling thus far. The stranger asked me to elaborate, so I talked about his inaccuracies, inability to go through his reads, and taking sacks.
The stranger asked me, "Did you go to training camp and watch him?" I said, "No." His response: "Well, how do you know all of this?" At that very moment, it dawned on me that my opinion was actually someone else's. How can I truly have an opinion on Manuel if I didn't at least see it for myself - and if I did see it, how do I really know what it is that I'm looking at?
Who helps form your opinion on the Bills, and more specifically, Manuel? Here is an even better question: where do you acquire your information? Is it the Internet, social media, radio, television, or is it perhaps newspapers? Of all these sources, which blogger, reporter, writer, or on-air personality would you say is truly qualified to evaluate the players? Are any of them privy to the inner workings of the practice regimen? How many of them have actually played and/or coached the sport, or are educated enough to know exactly what they are looking at? Is it possible that Manuel's perceived struggles are due to what is being coached during a particular practice session? For all that we know, Manuel is being instructed to check down during a practice session. His inaccuracies can be because his wide receivers are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The point that I'm trying to make is that we may not truly know.
If you stop and think about it, it's pretty comical to evaluate practice anyway, when you don't even know what it is that you are evaluating. Most onlookers, myself included, couldn't even tell you the proper depth a quarterback should have as he drops back from center, or the proper footwork or arm angle he should have on a particular pass. Also, isn't the whole point of practice to work on the things that you are currently struggling with, in an attempt to improve? It would be foolish to think that a young player like Manuel, for example, can even be evaluated three weeks in to training camp by novice evaluators.
It's important to note that I'm not trying to rag on anybody up there covering camp on a daily basis, because I know that they are just providing you with the information and their opinions based off their observations. They have a job to do, which is to be a conduit between the fans and the team. However, it is our responsibility as fans to form opinions based off what we see, what we know, and what we perceive as facts. Too often, I see fans become victims of group-think and pass judgments based on speculation, rhetoric, and emotion, which is the perfect concoction for overreactions.